While President Joe Biden’s State Department works secretive backdoor diplomatic dealings for a nuclear deal breakthrough, let it not be forgotten that Iran and, especially, the worldwide terrorist proxy Hizballah it spawned, are slapping America’s face back and forth all the while.
Biden’s relentless grasp at a foreign policy deal he could claim as a political win during his term goes on despite a serious Iranian effort to murder an Iranian-American dissident, to bust U.S. sanctions with U.S.-based schemes to acquire dual-use military technologies, to spread Hizballah’s attack and illicit finance capabilities throughout Latin America, and to seat Hizballah websites on U.S. Internet servers that openly solicit cash for weaponry.
These poke-in-the-eye intrigues are just the few revealed by very recent law enforcement actions that, despite scant media treatment, should red-flag the Biden administration’s judgement to repurpose, for its big foreign policy brag, a Trump-jettisoned 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. The Biden administration has already paid $2.7 billion in cash inducements to Iranian partners who continuously strike at the American national interest with open defiance and disrespect with hands out for more cash.
Hizballah websites just seized
Take, for instance, this business with the Hizballah websites sneaked onto American Internet servers in Virginia.
In May, a fairly obscure law enforcement wing of the Department of Commerce, known as the Office of Export Enforcement (OEE), “seized” 13 Lebanese Hizballah website domains registered on the American hosting company VeriSign, Inc. and at the Public Interest Registry, both of Reston, Virginia. OEE seized these domains, according to an affidavit, because they “constitute assets of entities and organizations engaged in planning or perpetuating a federal crime of terrorism against the U.S., its citizens and residents, and their property.”
The domains defiantly represented the names of actual senior Hizballah leaders and some of its entities, such as the Al Manar TV satellite television operation. How long they were up is left unsaid, but the registrars for all 13, designated as terrorists, were banned from conducting business in the U.S. for their dedication to harming the country and its allies.
The website for the Islamic Resistance Support Organization offered tabs listing contacts to call to arrange financial donations.
“Solicitation materials distributed by IRSO inform prospective donors that funds will be used to purchase sophisticated weapons and to conduct operations,” the affidavit informs us and Biden’s diplomats. “Donors can choose from a series of projects to contribute to, including supporting and equipping fighters and purchasing rockets and ammunition.”
A website for Ali Damush, a senior leader of Hizballah’s Foreign Relations Department, was problematic because the department “engages in covert terrorist operations around the world…including recruiting terrorist operatives and gathering intelligence,” the affidavit states, in part.
Plenty of that covert terrorism activity occurs inside the United States with the placement of Hizballah spies cross-trained to kill on demand from Tehran.
One site was for the Martyrs Foundation, an Iranian organization that channels Iranian cash to support the families of imprisoned Hizballah operatives and to suicide bombers who killed themselves in the Palestinian territories.
Another represented the Khomeini Relief Committee, to which Iran has provided millions of dollars since 2007 and which funds Hizballah youth training and terrorist operative recruitment camps.
Others were named for Ibrahim Al-Amin Al-Sayyid, head of Hizballah’s Political Council and a founder and longtime spokesman for the group, and for Naim Qasim, Deputy President of Hizballah’s Executive Council.
All of the sites openly identify as representing Hizballah, show the group’s flag, and sell the group’s hateful ideas and mission to a global general public.
Terrorist groups using American hosting companies are hardly a new phenomenon. US. companies are not generally held culpable for policing the content of millions of customers whose ranks may include sprinklings of legally banned groups like al-Qaeda and Hizballah.
Neither the U.S. affidavit nor Commerce Department press release about this action blames the Virginia companies in these cases, and the U.S. government seems to acknowledge that its seizure will only take down the websites “in their present form,” meaning they’ll probably pop up elsewhere.
Responding to my email request for comment, VeriSign’s David McGuire wrote that under agreement with the U.S. government, “we are required to operate the .com registry in a content-neutral manner, which means, among other things, that we don’t make decisions about allowing domain names in our registry database based on content.”
“It’s important to note that, as a registry operator, we have no relationship with the people or organizations who registered those domain names and [have] no special access … to any websites or content that may have been hosted on those domain names,” McGuire wrote.
Siphoning dual-use tech from the U.S. to Iran for mischief-making
In April 2023, even while American diplomats worked with Iranian counterparts, U.S. prosecutors moved on the latest in a long string of sanctions-busting export schemes to equip Iran with sensitive American technology and parts for military applications.
On June 9, federal agencies issued an advisory warning private industry to be extra vigilant as Iran works to procure sensitive technologies to develop its military-purpose Unmanned Aerial Vehicle program (UAVs, or drones) as it supplies the weapons to Russia for its Ukraine war.
“Iran relies on foreign procurement to obtain items it cannot produce domestically, often preferring U.S.-origin technologies,” the advisory warned. “Recovered Iranian-origin UAVs used by Russian forces in Ukraine reveal that Iran’s UAV program has used many components produced by third-country suppliers.”
The U.S. has plenty of historical reason to warn about Iran’s seemingly unending sanctions-busting effort.
One prosecution concluded in April involved a Taiwanese parts, goods and services procurement company called DES International, and its Brunei-based subsidiary Soltech, which counted the government of Iran as a major client and did sanctions busting for nearly a decade. According to an April 2023 guilty plea for this case, an “Iranian entity” paid DES and Soltech to manipulate two apparently unwitting, unnamed American companies into shipping manufactured electronic instruments, electromechancial devices, and cybersecurity software back to Iran.
The companies shipped a “power amplifier” and related electronic components and arranged banned downloads to Iran of cybersecurity software from American servers without required licenses “by deceit, craft, trickery, and dishonest means.”
A different prosecution ended in February 2023 with the sentencing of dual Iran-U.S. citizen Kambiz Attar Kashani to 30 months in prison for illegally exporting U.S. technology to the Central Bank of Iran, which materially supports Hizballah and the designated terrorist organization Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Court records showed that between February 2019 and June 2021, Kashani and co-conspirators used front companies to illegally procure controlled “sophisticated top-tier” U.S. electronic equipment and software enabling the Iranian banking system to operate more efficiently and securely to service terrorist entities.
“This is a sobering reminder that illegally exporting material is not an abstract economic concern – it is a crime with a direct impact on the safety of the American people,” said Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler Jr. of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division in a press release that gained no media traction.
A foiled Brooklyn assassination
Besides Iranian sanctions-busting schemes and Hizballah terrorism websites on American servers, U.S. diplomats also overlook a dastardly Iranian plot to murder people they don’t like – on U.S. soil.
In January, federal prosecutors charged Azerbaijani three men in an alleged plot that originated in Iran to kill an Iranian American human rights author Masih Alinejad who, from her home in Brooklyn, for noisily complaining about the regime’s human rights abuses there. All three are members of an Eastern European criminal organization with ties to Iran known as “Thieves-In-Law” who tattoo themselves with eight-point stars.
Police broke up the plot almost too late. A U.S.-based suspect named Khalid Mehdiyev had already used part of the $30,000 payment that an Iran-based gang member sent for the hit to buy an automatic rifle, and at one point he texted back to Iran from outside her home that he was ready to kill Alinejad.
Defendant Khalid Mehdiyev, a citizen of Azerbaijan from court records. Note the 8-pointed star tattoo indicating membership in the criminal gang Thieves-in-Law
“It’s going to be done today,” he allegedly texted.
That was only the most recent attempt to silence her. In 2021, the Iranian government intelligence service plotted to kidnap Alinejad inside the United States “for rendition to Iran and likely execution,” using military-style speed boats from Manhattan to Venezuela, a case complaint states.
In July 2021, a federal grand jury charged an Iranian intelligence officer and three “Iranian intelligence assets” with that kidnapping plot.
In April of this year, American diplomats could not have possibly have missed that a federal judge sentenced one of them, U.S. dual citizen Niloufar Bahadorifar, to four years in prison for laundering $476,100 from Iran into the United States to fund the plot.
None of these metaphorical face slaps and real life implications seem to matter to a Biden administration that craves a foreign policy “win” in time for the upcoming political campaign. If the Iranians have learned anything from this administration, it is that their mischief on and off their American playground not only goes unpunished but that it pays well too.
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